| A near-empty road in Darjeeling flanked by shops with downed shutters. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, Oct. 23: Life came to a grinding halt in the hill town today following the murder of a 22-year-old student of Arya Morning School last night.
Vivek Bhiktrikoty was stabbed by sharp weapons at Chowk Bazar around 10.30 pm. Though the student was rushed to the nearby Sadar Hospital, situated around 300 m from the spot, he could not be saved.
Allegations of negligence have been levelled against the staff of the emergency ward.
“The doctor on duty gave us a wrong report (that Bhiktrikoty had been brought dead) and the staff at the hospital did not respond to the emergency,” said Rakesh Bhusal, the victim’s neighbour.
A. Gupta, the acting superintendent of the hospital, however, said: “The patient was gasping as the weapon had pierced his heart. There was simply a communication gap with the relatives.”
Bhiktrikoty’s family members were also angry that the police took almost an hour to take down a general diary. “Even the personnel of Gorkha Shield (private security agency) beat us up when we went to the spot after hearing about the incident,” complained Bhusal.
The police, however, had deployed sniffer dogs at the site of murder. While a local vendor was picked up for questioning, it is suspected that an altercation between Bhiktrikoty and a group of boys at Chowk Bazar last evening could be one of the reasons why he was killed.
This morning, the “people of the town” put up posters questioning the security of residents and the responsibility of the hospital staff. “Vivek has been killed today and the same can happen to others tomorrow. We need more security,” one of the posters read.
With the people deciding to declare a 12 hour strike to “demand the immediate arrest of the culprits”, social and business organisations like the Nepali Damai Samaj, Pathpasala Sangh, Marwari Yuwa Manch and Agsu took little time to support the cause.
“We have deployed our full force (to ensure law and order) but then we cannot be present in every galli. It is almost after one-and-a-half years that there has been a murder in town,” said Rajesh Subarna, the superintendent of police, Darjeeling.
Tourists had a harrowing time though the strikers allowed vehicles to ply from near the Darjeeling railway station and the Clubside stand. However, Arindam Mukherjee, a tourist from Gangtok, said: “I have been trying to find a jeep to take me to Gangtok but there are no vehicles even at Darjeeling railway station.”
Attendance was minimum in most government offices and even the shops downed their shutters till late in the evening. Most tourists cancelled their sight-seeing plans and thronged the Chowrastha instead. A sharp shower accompanied by hailstorm in the afternoon soon forced them to scurry back to their hotels. Some taxis started plying once the body was taken for cremation.
Samrat Sanyal, secretary of the Eastern Himalayan Travel and Tour Operators’ Association, said vehicles carrying tourists to the hills were allowed to pass in the afternoon.
“For the first time, tourists were not harassed due to a strike in the hills,” said Raman Singh, a driver of a Darjeeling-bound jeep carrying a group of tourists from Calcutta. However, those who wanted to avail of the toy train to visit the hills had to cancel their plans. Divisional commercial manager of Northeast Frontier Railway Taraknath Bhattacharya said the service was cancelled today due to the strike in Darjeeling.